We’ve seen the good, we’ve seen the bad and we’ve probably seen too much of the ugly. In its Thursday match-up against an Illinois team that won 37 games a year ago, Georgetown will need to display a lot more of the good, and a whole lot less of the bad and the ugly.

Despite only having played four games to date, the 2005 season has already been an uneven one for Georgetown men’s basketball (3-1).

After handily defeating Navy, the Hoyas were ticketed for March greatness, but after beating James Madison by a fairly modest margin, Georgetown’s future was in doubt.

Following a loss to Vanderbilt, there seemed to be simply no way the Hoyas could live up to expectations.

But with Saturday’s convincing victory at Oregon, the Hoyas’ bandwagon patched its flat tire, revved its engine, and took off at breakneck speed towards this week’s face-off with the No. 10 Illini (8-0).

Oregon’s McArthur Court, by all accounts one of the toughest places in America to play, proved to be friendly territory for Georgetown. After falling behind by a score of 12-4 early, the Hoyas snapped out of their funk and rolled to a 71-57 victory over the Ducks. Senior guard Ashanti Cook, fresh off of a goose-egg performance against Vanderbilt, led all scorers with 25 points.

Thursday’s game, however, will set the Hoyas against their toughest opponent to date. Tough-luck losers in last year’s title game, Bruce Weber’s Illini are a depleted but still formidable team.

Gone is guard Deron Williams, arguably the most important part of Illinois’ Final Four team, who bolted to the NBA. Guard Luther Head, who scored 21 points in last year’s title game, graduated. Roger Powell Jr., the Illini’s most aggressive rebounder, also received a diploma and left Champaign.

Last season, Illinois defeated Georgetown by a score of 74-59, at MCI Center. Powell led the Illini with 19 points, while then-freshman forward Jeff Green dropped 20 for the Hoyas.

Even with the losses from the team that beat the Hoyas, the Illini still have enough pieces returning that their puzzle remains intact. Senior guard Dee Brown leads the way, having averaged 13.9 points and five assists per game thus far. Senior center James Augustine holds down the middle, averaging 15.9 points and nine rebounds.

Joining Brown and Augustine in the starting five are sophomore forwards Brian Randle (8.4 points per game) and Shaun Pruitt (5.6), and junior guard Rich McBride (8.9). Freshman guard Jamar Smith has offered some instant offense off of the bench, chipping in 10.1 points in just under 20 minutes a game.

Though their most recent contest was Monday’s 75-49 drubbing of Arkansas-Little Rock, the Illini have already played their fair share of close games. Against Texas-Pan American, one of 10 independent schools in Division I, Illinois had to recover from an early 10-point deficit to score a 71-59 victory.

If it weren’t for junior forward Warren Carter’s lay-up as time expired, Illinois would have fallen to Wichita State. Instead the Illini pulled out a 55-54 victory.

Illinois’ rematch with defending champion North Carolina – a team that lost its seven top scorers – was hard-fought and close throughout, with Illinois eventually winning by four. Saturday’s match-up with Xavier required the Illini to come from 12 points down to win 65-62.

Still, a win is a win is a win, and Illinois enters Thursday’s affair undefeated. To leave Champaign with a win, the Hoyas will need to show more of the suffocating defense that left the Oregon offense looking thoroughly discombobulated.

Against a proven team like Illinois, Georgetown will need its most talented players, senior forward Brandon Bowman (10 points per game) and sophomore forward Green (9.8), to take a more active role in the offense.

Sophomore center and leading scorer Roy Hibbert (15.1 points) should make for a good match-up against Augustine down low, as should Cook going up against Brown.

But, if Bowman and Green can step up and have the impact they have demonstrated time and time again, the Hoyas should have a realistic shot of matching last year’s win total against ranked teams (one, against then-No. 16 Pittsburgh on Jan. 5, 2005).

Tip-off is set for Thursday at 9 p.m. EST at Illinois’ Assembly Hall. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

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